Philippians 4:8-9 February 25, 2018
Paul begins our verses today with these two words – “Finally, brothers…” The Philippians are his brothers and sisters. They are family. They are family because they are Christians and have been, like Paul, adopted by God the Father. If you are a Christian, you are also a child of God, you also have been adopted by God the father, and so you also are Paul’s brother or sister – which means these words are for you.
The word “finally” signals that Paul is wrapping up his letter. And as he begins to wrap up his letter, he has, in our verses today,
2 exhortations, 8 qualifications, and 1 promise.
Lord willing, we’ll get to all of that this morning.
And the exhortations are significant, namely because they are his final two exhortations – the last in a long list of instructions.
He has told them “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And “be of the same mind,” and “count others more significant than yourselves,” and “look to the interests of others,” and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and “do all things without grumbling,” and “hold fast to the word of life,” and “rejoice in the Lord,” and “imitate godly examples,” and “stand firm,” and now he’s down to two closing instructions; two final exhortations – “Think about these things” and “practice these things.”
So, 2 exhortations, 8 qualifications, and 1 promise – that’s where we’re headed this morning. But before I preach this sermon, we should pray together. Please bow your heads with me.
Please open your Bibles to Philippians 4, which, if you’re using one of our church Bibles, you’ll find on page 637. Let me read the text in its entirety one more time before we begin. Philippians 4:8-9. This is the Word of God:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Amen.
The first exhortation is at the end of verse 8, and it’s “think about these things.” The second exhortation is in the middle of verse 9 and it’s “practice these things.” Think and then practice. Or, think and put into practice.
This week, I thought about why Paul chose these two instructions for his concluding instructions. As I said before, his letter has many exhortations, so why end with these?
Of course I can’t be sure, but I know that at the end of the day, these two instructions are an accurate description of the life of a growing Christian.
Think, and then put into practice. Comprehend, and then commit. Believe, and then behave. Right thinking, and then right living. That is the life pattern of a Christian who wants to mature; who wants to grow in grace. Both this kind of thinking, and this kind of practicing are essential.
So let’s begin with verse 8. How should we think? Look at the end of the verse…
“Think about these things.”
That is what Paul says at the end of the verse after he lists eight qualifications for your thoughts. In other words, if you’re thinking about something not described here, it is not qualified to be thought about.
The eight qualifications are, (and we’ll look at these individually), “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.” Think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise. Do not think about what is false, base, crude, sleazy, ugly, despicable, shameful, or deserving of condemnation.
The target of this instruction is your mind. This is an exhortation to think. Paul is saying – Christians need to think. The word he uses means consider, ponder, dwell on. In mathematical use, it means calculate.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
This word isn’t referring to passing thoughts, it is referring to deep thinking. This is the thinking you do when you dwell on something. This is what plays on a loop in your mind. If your mind worked like a car, this would be driving up to a thought, putting it in park, and turning off the ignition.
It requires slowing down. It requires stopping. It requires focus and attention and time. Now, Paul tells us what to think about when you think like that; what to think about when you think deeply. But first, I would say that many of you rarely think like that.
Your first problem is not that when you think like that, you don’t think about these things – Your first problem is that you rarely think like that. You rarely slow down. You rarely think deeply. You rarely dwell on anything.
Do you ever get to the end of a day, and you’re stumbling toward your bed, and while you did many things in that day, you wonder if you thought about anything of eternal significance all day.
Many of you live in very packed schedules. And most of us have very high demands on us. Our pace of life is hectic. Not all of you, but many of you. Many of us can’t get done the things we want to get done, let alone slow down to actually think.
As well, most of us today find it difficult to dwell on any one thing because we constantly have many things battling for our thoughts. Most of us are bombarded by information all day long – from people, from television, from radio, from podcasts – it’s information overload.
So let me ask you – How much time do you actually spend thinking deeply? How much time thinking about your life? Your sin? Your God? How much time considering the sermon you heard the week before? How much time considering a verse you read the morning before? How much time in deep thought?
Here’s what I’m getting at – For some of you, the application starts with this little word “think.” Before we get to what you need to think deeply about, you just need to start thinking deeply. What this actually is is Christian meditation. Christians must think deeply.
The Puritans were probably the best at this. They were deeply committed to deep thought.
George Swinnock (1627-1673), in the 1600’s, defined Christian meditation as “a serious applying the mind to some sacred subject, till the affections be warmed and quickened, and the resolution heightened and strengthened thereby, against what is evil, and for that which is good.” Do you hear what he is saying? This is how Christians must think. They seriously apply their mind to something good until their affections are warmed and quickened.
Now, here is Paul’s full instruction. He says “Think about these things.” Christians need to think deeply, and when you think deeply think about these things.
This is what you should you let in your mind and this is what you should keep out of your mind.
Here’s the list. 8 things. We’ll run through it quickly.
- “whatever is true”
This word means reliable and faithful. Think about things that accord with reality. Think about things that accord with God’s Word, the source of ultimate truth. Don’t think about lies. Don’t think about things that are false.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
That means Christians need the truth of God’s Word to be sanctified; to mature; to grow. So think about truth.
- “whatever is honorable”
This word means serious, respectable, and dignified. Think about things that are worthy of honor. Don’t think about things that are base and casual and trivial.
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
- “whatever is just”
This word means righteous and innocent in the eyes of God. This word is used to describe balanced scales. Think about things that are right in God’s eyes. Not other’s eyes, not even your own eyes. Don’t think about things that are wrong.
Galatians 3:11 – Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
- “whatever is pure”
This word means holy and free from any defect or defilement. Think pure thoughts. Don’t think about impurity or the crude or the raunchy or the sleazy. There should be rigorous censorship in every Christian mind.
1 Timothy 4:12
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
That’s half of them, 4 of 8. Let’s pause. You may already be thinking about this, but consider what you let in to your mind. It’s not insignificant. “If you think holy thoughts, you will be holy. If you think garbage thoughts, you will be garbage.” (Carson) What do you read? Listen to? Watch? Entertain?
Martin Luther said, regarding impure sexual thoughts – “You can’t keep birds from circling over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”
- “whatever is lovely”
This word means pleasing, acceptable, and worthy of embrace. Think about what is beautiful and attractive according to God. Don’t think about worldly beauty, which is actually ugly and disgusting.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
- “whatever is commendable”
This word means worthy, kind, and unlikely to give offense. Think about these things. Don’t think about the despicable.
1 Peter 2:12
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
- “if there is any excellence” [whatever is excellent]
This word means morally good, gracious, and virtuous. Think about excellent things. Don’t think about wickedness and what is shameful.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
- “if there is anything worthy of praise” [whatever is worthy of praise]
This word has to do with acknowledging what deserves commendation. Think about what is praiseworthy. Don’t think about things that deserve condemnation.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
You get the point. If you’re a Christian, you know what qualifies and what doesn’t. He is exhorting us to be disciplined with our minds.
So let me ask you – Do you think deeply about anything? If so, what do you think deeply about? Do you think deeply about these things?
Let’s move on to Paul’s second exhortation, and it’s the final exhortation in his letter. It’s in the middle of verse 9 where he says “practice these things.” Let’s read the verse – What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things.
“Practice these things.”
Paul exhorts us to think. And now, he exhorts us to practice. This is how you grow in grace. You think and you do. You think and you practice. Practice means to do, over and over.
Practice what? According to Paul, practice “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.” The Philippians had learned and received from Paul. The Philippians had heard and seen Paul. But that’s not enough. They need to think about what Paul has said, they need to apply it, and then need to put it into practice.
What have you learned and received? What have you heard and seen? No practice, no growth. Imagine a coach giving his players a book in lieu of practice?!!!
Okay, in conclusion, I said at the beginning we would see two exhortations, 8 qualifications, and one promise. Let’s end with the promise. Here it is. It’s similar to the promise in 4v7, but even better. Let’s read both verses together again…
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
“the God of peace will be with you.” Before, (4v7) the peace of God will be with you.
Here, the God of peace will be with you.